reviews of books related to China and linguistics

Sino-Platonic Papers has just released online its first compilation of book reviews. Here is a list of the books discussed. (Note: The links below do not lead to the reviews but to other material.)

Invited Reviews

  • J. Marshall Unger, The Fifth Generation Fallacy. Reviewed by Wm. C. Hannas
  • Rejoinder by J. Marshall Unger
  • Hashimoto Mantaro, Suzuki Takao, and Yamada Hisao. A Decision for the Chinese NationsToward the Future of Kanji (Kanji minzoku no ketsudanKanji no mirai ni mukete). Reviewed by Wm. C. Hannas
  • S. Robert Ramsey. The Languages of China. Reviewed by Wm. C. Hannas
  • James H. Cole, Shaohsing. Reviewed by Mark A. Allee
  • Henry Hung-Yeh Tiee, A Reference Grammar of Chinese Sentences. Reviewed by Jerome L. Packard

Reviews by the Editor

  • David Pollack, The Fracture of Meaning
  • Jerry Norman, Chinese
  • N. H. Leon, Character Indexes of Modern Chinese
  • Shiu-ying Hu, comp., An Enumeration of Chinese Materia Medico
  • Donald M. Ayers, English Words from Latin and Greek Elements
  • Chen Gang, comp., A Dictionary of Peking Colloquialisms (Beijing Fangyan Cidian)
  • Dominic Cheung, ed. and tr., The Isle Full of Noises
  • Jonathan Chaves, ed. and tr., The Columbia Book of Later Chinese Poetry
  • Philip R. Bilancia, Dictionary of Chinese Law and Government
  • Charles O. Hucker, A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China
  • Robert K. Logan, The Alphabet Effect
  • Liu Zhengtan, Gao Mingkai, et al., comp., A Dictionary of Loan Words and Hybrid Words in Chinese (Hanyu Wailai Cidian)
  • The Mandarin Daily Dictionary of Loan Words (Guoyu Ribao Wailaiyu Cidian)
  • Shao Xiantu, Zhou Dingguo, et al., comp., A Dictionary of the Origins of Foreign Place Names (Waiguo Diming Yuyuan Cidian)
  • Tsung-tung Chang, Metaphysik, Erkenntnis und Praktische Philosophie um Chuang-Tzu
  • Irene Bloom, trans, ed., and intro., Knowledge Painfully Acquired: The K’un-chih chi of Lo Ch’in-shun
  • Research Institute for Language Pedagogy of the Peking College of Languages, comp., Frequency Dictionary of Words in Modern Chinese (Xiandai Hanyu Pinlyu Cidian)
  • Liu Yuan, chief compiler, Word List of Modern Mandarin (Xianhi Hanyu Cibiao)
  • The Editing Group of A New English-Chinese Dictionary, comp., A New English-Chinese Dictionary
  • BBC External Business and Development Group, Everyday Mandarin

This is SPP no. 8, from February 1988. The entire text is now online as a 4.2 MB PDF.

Lysistrata in Taiwanese

Too cool. Oh, I hope this comes to Taipei.

From the troupe’s English-language introduction:

In order to make theatre more accessible to the Tainanese, the troupe has utilised various dramatic forms to explore different local issues that may concern our audiences in their daily life. We even ask our actors to speak good Min-nan-yu, or Taiwanese (as opposed to Mandarin, the official language of Taiwan), in many of our productions, so that the local audiences can easily identify themselves with the characters and feel less intimidated by the language barrier.

Good. This is a basic point but one all too seldom ignored or dismissed: Until relatively recently Mandarin was a foreign language in Taiwan. The native language for most in Taiwan has been Taiwanese/Hokkien/Hoklo.

As an aside, I note that the ticket outlet translates Táinánrén jùtuán (?????) as the “Tainaner Ensemble”. Tainaner? Is that really what gets used in English for people from Tainan?

via Lomaji

Firefox extensions for Mandarin Chinese texts

Although my favorite Web browser remains Opera (which is now free), I recognize that Firefox (which has always been free) has some nice things going for it, especially its wide range of extensions.

At least two of these extensions might be of special interest to readers of this site: Translate, which will translate a Web page from Mandarin Chinese (as well as lots of other languages) into English (more or less), and the Adso GreaseMonkey Script, which provides Pinyin and English annotation for Chinese characters.

First, Translate, which is the cat’s pajamas. I don’t know how I survived without it.

  • Using Firefox, Install Translate. (If that link has expired, find the installation through the home page of Gravelog.)

    • Firefox will likely block your installation at first, which is a good thing. (Safety first.)
    • Look for this message in a bar near the top of your browser window: “To protect your computer, Firefox prevented this site (ctomer.com) from installing software on your computer.”
    • Click on the “Edit Options” button in the same bar (near the top right of your screen).
    • A pop-up box will appear. Click on “Allow” and then “Close”.
  • Restart Firefox.
  • Try out the extension by going to a Web page with text in Chinese characters.

    From the Firefox menu, choose Tools --> Translate --> Translate from Chinese-simp[lified] (or Tools --> Translate --> Translate from Chinese-trad[itional], as appropriate). The translated Web page will appear in a few moments.

    If you want to translate just a portion of the text on a Web page, or if Babel Fish chokes on the text of the entire Web page and you need an alternate approach, simply use your mouse to select the text you’re interested in. Next, right click and select Translate --> From Chinese-simp (or Translate --> From Chinese-trad , as appropriate). Note: The translation will appear in a new tab, so don’t sit around waiting for the translation to appear in the same tab you’ve been working in.

    Translate also handles Japanese, Korean, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Greek, and Russian.

    A related but less effective extension is gtranslate, which handles limited amounts of text in simplified but not traditional characters.

    Now let’s examine the Adso GreaseMonkey Script.

    • Install Firefox or upgrade to version 1.5.
    • Using Firefox, install Greasemonkey (If that link has expired, find the installation through the main Greasemonkey page.)
      • Firefox will likely block your installation at first, which is a good thing. (Safety first.)
      • Look for this message in a bar near the top of your browser window: “To protect your computer, Firefox prevented this site (greasemonkey.mozdev.org) from installing software on your computer.”
      • Click on the “Edit Options” button in the same bar (near the top right of your screen).
      • A pop-up box will appear. Click on “Allow” and then “Close”.
    • Restart Firefox.
    • Install the Adso GreaseMonkey Script.
      • Look for this message in a bar near the top of your browser window: “This is a Greasemonkey user script. Click Install to start using it.”
      • Click the “Install” button in the same bar (near the top right of your screen).

    Try it out by going to a Web page with text in Chinese characters.

    To activate the script, press “a”.
    Click on or highlight the script you’re interested in seeing the Pinyin for.
    Move your mouse over the Chinese characters in the pop-up box; the Pinyin will appear.
    screenshot of how this popup looks

    To deactivate the script, press any other key.

    For more information, see the Firefox Plugin: Chinese text annotation thread on Chinese-forums.com.

    Of related interest is the Rikai Web page converter.

    Latin and Greek in U.S. schools

    Mark Liberman at Language Log mentions the role Latin and Greek used to play in education (Old school), which is as good an excuse as any to post some graphs I made a few weeks ago from data (not current, alas) on Latin and Greek Enrollments in America’s Schools and Colleges. (I’m trying to post my backlog before Chinese New Year. And maybe then I can finally answer all the mail and comments that have been piling up.)

    Note that these are not to scale with each other.

    Latin as a Percentage of Enrollments, Grades 9-12
    percentage of U.S. high school students enrolled in Latin courses, by year, showing a steep decline from the mid 1960s to mid 1970s

    Latin, as a Percentage of College Enrollments
    percentage of U.S. college students enrolled in Latin courses, by year, showing a steep decline from the late 1960s to mid 1970s

    Greek, as a Percentage of College Enrollments
    percentage of U.S. college students enrolled in Greek courses, by year

    The numbers appear different in another paper from the same source: Foreign Language Enrollments in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 2002 (PDF). This also gives data for many other languages.

    I was going to have this lead into a discussion on the role of Classical Chinese in education in Taiwan, but I’m too far behind. So this makes two entries in a row without a direct tie-in to this site’s theme. Sorry about that.

    debate over teaching of ancient Greek

    A proposal by Greece’s conservative government to boost pupils’ poor vocabulary by increasing ancient Greek in the schools’ curriculum has reopened an old controversy about the place of Socrates’ language in the country’s society and education.

    More knowledge of their ancient language will improve pupils’ skills in modern Greek, Education Minister Marieta Yiannakou argued. “One observes bad use of language, weakness in expression and poor vocabulary,” she complained.

    Ancient Greek classes in secondary schools should therefore increase from four hours per week to five, Yiannakou said. Under the same set of proposals, high-school students would study the original texts of their famous forebears four hours a week, up from two.

    The Pedagogical Institute, the country’s educational standards watchdog, is to pronounce its weighty opinion on the matter by mid-December. The ministry-run board is expected to endorse Yiannakou’s proposal, a source there told AFP on condition of anonymity.

    But Greece’s powerful teacher unions are against it. “The measure would be wrong, artificial and unfounded,” said Costas Vamvakas, board member of secondary school teachers union OLME, told AFP.

    Spoken Greek [Bah! — M.] is a simplified descendant of the language’s ancient variety, as the latter is known and taught throughout the world in the celebrated, classical works of Homer, Plato, Thucydides and Aristotle.

    But modern Greeks find it difficult to understand their ancient language. Most pupils resent classes as a daunting and unnecessary task in an already overfraught curriculum.

    “Pupils don’t like ancient Greek classes. They think it’s tiresome and useless,” one high school teacher told AFP.

    “Changes should rather be made in the way ancient Greek is taught,” Greek opposition George Papandreou concurred. “We have to make pupils understand what Plato, Aristotle and Socrates actually said — only then will their words acquire meaning”.

    The place of ancient Greece in modern Greek society has been a controversial issue back to the country’s independence in 1821. Authorities’ exaggerated reverence to the country’s classical heritage banned vernacular language from the curriculum and led to heated, often violent controversy between modernists and traditionalists.

    Modern Greek became the official state language as late as 1976. It replaced ‘katharevousa’, an artificial, officialese mix between modern-day language, medieval and ancient Greek. Ancient Greek classes were confined to high school students aiming for a classical university degree.

    But traditionalist educators felt that cutting modern Greek from its roots vulgarised young people’s language and left the country defenseless against the invasion of English. Ancient Greek returned to secondary schools under Greece’s past conservative government in 1992, after prodding by linguist professor Yiorgos Babiniotis who is considered to this day as the champion of the Greek language.

    Babiniotis, currently the rector of Athens University, the traditionalists’ bastion in Greek academia, has softened his views. Boosting ancient Greek would be a “good first step,” but it should be supplemented by improvements in the teaching method, he said.

    “The young who want to learn Greek in secondary school should be offered rewards,” said Yiorgis Yiatromanolakis, classic literature professor at the Athens University.

    “Promotion of ancient Greek should be considered as a national investment with awards, grants, loans and prizes,” he said.

    source: Ancient Greek soulsearching continues in modern Greek schools, from Agence France-Presse